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After helming the two highest-grossing films in the Halloween franchise, filmmaker David Gordon Green stuck to his guns for his trilogy capper, Halloween Ends. Set four years after the tragic events of Halloween Kills, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) introduces a troubled young man named Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell) to her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), and despite the best of intentions, Corey and Allyson’s dynamic relationship gradually drives a wedge between the two surviving Strode women. And as expected, Haddonfield boogeyman Michael Myers re-enters the equation at the worst possible time for Laurie and Allyson.
In an era where valuable IP is still the name of the game, it’s fair to question whether the end is really the end, but in Halloween Ends’ case, the final showdown between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) feels conclusive. While there’s an element that could’ve been used to pave the way for more Halloween stories, Green never felt any pressure to leave a loose thread for another filmmaker to pull on at some point.
“I don’t think I felt the need to plant a seed. The actual twist that you’re talking about is related to a point where you could continue things, and that wasn’t by any design other than me and the writers thinking that it might be cool,” Green tells The Hollywood Reporter.
From Pineapple Express and Stronger to his Halloween films, Green has quite an eclectic body of work across multiple genres, and so he was ready to move on from the horror genre until producer Jason Blum tempted him with another classic horror franchise, The Exorcist.
“That’s the truth. I really did have every intention of saying, ‘I’m going to push pause on horror,’ as much as I love the genre. It was just time to move on until the perfect property and the perfect idea happened at the same time,” Green explains. “So we’re developing The Exorcist, and Ellen Burstyn, along with an amazing cast, is coming together for that, with a script I’m really excited about. Technically, it’s an extraordinarily different film from Halloween. I guess it’s in the subgenre of horror, but dramatically, I’m approaching it very academically.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Green also discusses the emotions on set following Curtis’ final take as Laurie Strode.
Well, the final few frames of Halloween Ends are a perfect finishing touch.
That’s good to hear. We debated that, and we tried a lot of things. So that’s what felt right at the end of the day, and I’m glad to hear it connected.
So when I spoke to you and Jason Blum last year for Halloween Kills, you told me that you had just added a new twist to Halloween Ends’ ending. Did that stick, or did things continue to evolve?
I think it stuck. It’s hard to say where I was a year ago exactly, but I don’t think it changed too much since then. In some ways, it got bigger and more ambitious, but the narrative always stayed the same.
Was it difficult to put Ends together while releasing Kills? Or were you able to tune out the chatter and the noise, and stick to your guns?
Well, it was after Kills. Kills came out in early October, and we started prepping in November. So the dust had settled, and we jumped right into it and started. We didn’t film until mid-January in Savannah.
But you were still writing Ends while releasing Kills, right?
I’m still writing Ends, and it’s done. (Laughs.) Literally, every Sunday, I would rewrite the movie. I would do a polish on it, or I would do something new based on an inspiration, a rehearsal or an idea that I would have. But I wrote Kills and Ends at the same time with a variation on the writers. We had Scott Teems on Kills, and we had Paul Brad Logan and Chris Bernier on Ends. So we were writing and designing them side by side. And when I finished shooting Kills, I was like, “Oh, we need to add Lindsey into Ends,” because I liked working with Kyle [Richards] so much. So there’s evolution in that respect, but nothing too radical.
Anytime a successful franchise says it’s ending, there’s always a bit of skepticism about whether it’ll actually end. And early on in the film, I thought I recognized what the future of the franchise might be, but by the end, I no longer thought that. So as far as setting up a potential future, did you ever remotely feel like you had to plant a seed for another filmmaker down the road?
I don’t think I felt the need to plant a seed. The actual twist that you’re talking about is related to a point where you could continue things, and that wasn’t by any design other than me and the writers thinking that it might be cool. In the writers’ room, it’s like rehearsal. It’s kind of a free space where you can say, “Okay, we’re right here, right now. This event just happened. We’re going to do Choose Your Own Adventure. Where would you go?” And then all four of us write a version of it. So then we make moves like that and say, “It’s feeling a little stagnant or cliché here. What can we do here to shake it up? And then what if this happens? Boom! Or what if this is the curveball? Boom!” And then we talk through the rest of the movie. So it was right in there where some of the massage was happening a year ago, and I guess that massage continued through the production.
I’ve started a new habit of audio recording rehearsals. We usually go to the real space where we’re going to shoot, but if we can’t, we’ll go into an office for an interior or outside in the yard for an exterior. And we’ll just workshop the script without any cameras, without anything, but we do have the audio there. And it’s funny because sometimes in the edit, I would refer to that audio. In some cases, I would even drop it in and use it off camera because it had the actors’ raw instincts about a scene. So I found that to be a really strange but useful tool in the production of this movie. We would do these rehearsals on Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon, and then I’d go rewrite. But I always had that raw audio to be able to play with and refer to.
How would you describe Jamie Lee Curtis’ last take as Laurie Strode and the emotions that followed on set?
There were enormous emotions. It was late at night, we were all exhausted, but it was bittersweet. We’re really proud of what we’ve done, and it’s hard to say goodbye. I’m confident Jamie and I will work together in other forms and capacities forever, but Laurie is a character that means so much to millions of fans. She’s a huge part of her professional career, so it was a beautiful thing to be a part of that goodbye. It wasn’t just, “Hey, Jamie Lee Curtis has wrapped, y’all,” but it was also that we were coming to the end of our story, which has lasted 44 years for her. So it’s really significant in so many ways, and there were smiles, cheers, applause and tears. The beauty of making movies with this particular group of colleagues is that we all care so much about what we’re doing, and we try to put all that we have to offer in the work that we do. So it’s inevitable that you become really close in doing that, and saying goodbye to a cast member or character often has that kind of emotional residual.
So I know there’s a novelization of the film that’s about to come out, but have there been any talks about fleshing out Laurie’s memoir in the film?
That’s funny. So Paul Brad Logan, one of my co-writers on Ends, wrote the novelization, and it’s so fucking fun. A novelization is usually kind of a transcription where I never meet the writer, but it’s cool that they exist as novelty merch. And it’s fun for me because people want to read it. But with [Halloween Ends: The Official Movie Novelization], Paul uses conversations that we had in the writers’ room as well as old drafts, so there’s so many layers to what he’s done here, and it is really thorough. And before he was assigned this job, we were on set, and he pitched a Laura Palmer diary type of thing for Laurie’s memoir. But then they gave him this objective and it kind of distracted him, so he focused it on that.
But I think [fleshing out Laurie’s memoir] is a really cool idea. Maybe when the dust settles, we’ll have a little time to flesh something out like that. We’re doing some cool stuff like a coffee table book about our trilogy, and we’re putting together some pretty fun things that I think, in retrospect, will be nice to look back on. So it has been such a monumental trilogy for all of us involved and for me, personally and professionally. And so having that archive of thoughts, which is overwhelming to so many degrees, will be great. Fans will enjoy it, too.
What’s your favorite shot in the film? My guess would be the blood reflection shot.
Wow, that may be it. That was just a really spontaneous dance that we were doing in the moment. We were relocating the camera, it fell off its tilt and we found that. And then we just started dancing for 20 minutes with that reflection. Shit, that may be [my favorite shot]. That’s a pretty magical moment. And you know what? I think that is it because it also just brings that discovery, which I’m always so proud of. It’s one thing to plan a gorgeous shot or say, “Hey, we’re going to be there before the sun rises and get this beautiful light,” which is everybody’s intention. But when you’re in the middle of the madness and you catch something out of the corner of your eye that you become obsessed with, you start to sculpt it, and then everybody gets quiet and starts sculpting it together, from the dolly grip to the electricians. And then Jamie sees what we’re doing, and she gets it. And Jim [James Jude Courtney] is also sitting there with buckets of blood. So you can’t plan for those moments, but when you’re there, you carve out the time and make it happen as best you can.
My favorite sound in the movie is Laurie’s chair rocking back and forth against a wall.
Yeah, it pre-laps a little bit in the exterior shot. So there’s this curious sound, and then we reveal what she’s doing. That’s one of my favorite scenes. The two of them are sitting so far apart and saying so much. It’s just tones, sounds and simplicity.
People’s moods tend to rise and fall according to the news channel they consume. Are you exploring that idea with the recurring radio station voiceover and its effect on Haddonfield?
A little bit. Overall, I’m a very optimistic person, and I find that if I’m going to read the news, it’s going to be between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM. That’s when I can deal with the burden of negativity. I don’t want to wake up to it, and I don’t want to go to bed to it. The world is full of so many burdens and obstacles anyway that I want to make sure that they’re relevant to me and pertain to me, and there’s a degree of processing and truth to that. So I think a lot of people are just looking for those little bursts of cortisol and excitement, and negativity lights fires and fires make money. So I think this story does point to the contagiousness of negativity. In an entertaining, popcorn, midnight madness movie like Halloween Ends, it’s what creates evil and what manifests evil.
But I do think there’s a relatable form of what that is, too. If your head starts spinning and you can’t sleep at night because you checked the really depressing news headlines right before you went to bed, it can not only disrupt your sleep, but it can also destroy your psyche or your confidence in yourself or your community. This is not a message movie, but I see plenty of friends of mine that are subjected to depression that’s outside their immediate universe and in a world that they can’t control because of voices and articulation of perpetuating hostility. So I do all I can in my life to avoid that and redefine that.
So the town of Haddonfield is suffering from that, and when you find a character like Corey Cunningham, who is a very vulnerable person at a traumatic moment of his life, there isn’t a community he can to turn to because everybody has already deconstructed [him] in their own pessimism, paranoia and blame. So how are you going to heal, and where do you go from there? If the movie is asking a question that the world should reflect on, it’s that.
So having just wrapped a horror franchise trilogy, I assume you wanted to take a big left turn for your next project, but once Jason Blum dangled The Exorcist, was it just too tempting to say no to that world?
That’s the truth. It is. If anybody’s followed my career, I’m always about left turns. Once I feel comfortable, I’ve got to get out of there and go do something that I don’t know and that is dangerous and vulnerable. That’s the stuff that really appeals to me. Fortunately, I’ve been able to exercise that through a lot of comedic work on television and some other things I’ve been able to do in between horror projects. But I really did have every intention of saying, “I’m going to push pause on horror,” as much as I love the genre. It’s been good to me from a creative and financial standpoint, for sure, but it was just time to move on until the perfect property and the perfect idea happened at the same time.
So, yeah, we’re developing The Exorcist, and Ellen Burstyn, along with an amazing cast, is coming together for that, with a script I’m really excited about. Technically, it’s an extraordinarily different film from Halloween. I guess it’s in the subgenre of horror, but dramatically, I’m approaching it very academically. So we’ll see. It’s bringing a lot of the same team together in terms of our makeup and effects team and our cinematographer, but at the same time, we’re bringing in a new group as well to complement and evolve in different ways and to make sure it doesn’t feel redundant or repetitive.
I’m fascinated by Hollywood’s Carolina contingent [North Carolina School of the Arts alumni], so I’ve always associated you and Jeff Nichols together. And I just realized that you’ve shot four movies since his last movie, Loving (2016). Have you commiserated with him at all?
Well, I mess with him about that, too. He is very much a perfectionist. We go way back to film school, and then we lived near each other in Austin for years. He can’t multitask, but I like spinning plates. I like jumping from here to there. I like saying, “I’m going to jump out of here and go do this TV pilot. And now that I’m done with that TV pilot, I’m going to grab a Pizza Hut commercial.” I just love the exercise. I love production. I love rolling film. I love discovery. But he’s very scripted, composed and controlled. He’s got that going in his favor, but I don’t have that in my favor. So I wouldn’t know what to do with that kind of preconception and that kind of time. I want to have output, and I want to have exploration. I’m a messy journeyman, and I’m fine with that. So I’ll always admire the work that he’s doing, and we share a lot of collaborators, too. Maybe when I’m done with Exorcist, I’ll hop over to [Jeff Nichols’] The Bikeriders set and see what they’re doing in Ohio.
Halloween Ends is now available in movie theaters and on Peacock. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
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